Sunday, October 25, 2009

Pumpkins and princesses

Our first Halloween in Clintondale

I got some prime pumpkins at the farmers market down the street.

Halloween was a bit rainy and drab and inspired us to cook soup. James has been raving about this Moosewood Hungarian mushroom soup he ate in Montana once 10 years ago and later cooked with Rosemary. Now there is the internet and we found the recipe. It came out great and is completely vegetarian if you use vegetable stock. Testa Kajsa, använd trattisar kanske.

12 ounces (0.3 kg) of mushrooms. I used half champingons and half baby bellas but I'd rather be creative and use what I just picked in the woods.
2 cups (5dl) of grated onions. I like them fine and not chunky in my soup, they become part of the stock almost.
2 tablespoons of butter
3 tablespoons of flour
1 cup (2.5dl)milk
2 teaspoons dill
1 tablespoon Hungarian paprika
1 table spoon tamari soy sauce
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups (5dl) stock
2 teaspoons lemon juice
salt and pepper (don't be shy)
1/2 cup (1dl) sour cream

Sauté onions in 2 table spoons of stock. A few minutes later add mushrooms, 1 tsp dill, 1/2 cup stock, soy sauce and paprika.

In another pot melt butter and add flour, (redning, there it is again). Add the milk and cook for about 10 minutes until it's thick. Stir in the mushroom mix and the remaining stock. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Just before serving add the lemon juice and the sour cream and some more fresh dill.

I made corn bread to go with it. Turned out to be a good combination.

Our weekends are short now that we are both working and the work around the house consists of little easy projects. Hanging light fixtures and rearranging what little furniture we have. And of course making food, eating the food and watching Mad Men. And this weekend - carving pumpkins.

It is best done with a funny hat and a PBR in hand. James got one of them right.

The Da Vinci of pumpkin carving over here.

There was going to be a scary competition but we both ended up with jolly, drunk and pretty dumb looking pumpkins.

James redneck muppet pumpkin. DUH-HUH-HUH.

Mine slightly more evil but equally intoxicated.

We bought tons of candy in preparation for the little trick or treaters. Pumpkins were lit and we were ready. We waited. And waited. And waited. The rest of Maple Ave was unusually dark. Around 7 there was a weak knock at the door. I ran over and tore it open to find 2 little scared princesses outside. I greeted them a little too enthusiastically "OUR FIRST TRICK OR TREATERS HELLOOOOO WHAT ARE YOU SUPPOSED TO BE!!!!! HERE HAVE SOME CANDY!!!!" Shoving over the untouched bowl. "HAVE AS MUCH AS YOU WANT!!!!" They reached their little hands cautiously into the bowl, couldn't wait to get off this crazy woman's porch. "NO DON'T GO, HOW DO YOU LIKE OUR PUMPKINS" Big bear steps from inside the house. "JAMES WE HAVE TRICK OR TREATERS!!!" James equally impressed, princesses backing slowly off the porch. Starting on a light jog back to mom's car parked in the street as soon as they were off the stairs.

And Halloween was over.

A sea of leaves in the front yard? A cancelled insurance policy due to a damaged furnace, peeling paint and missing shingles? An empty cottage that's costing money? Dead tree branches that will fall on wires and knock out the electricity to the barn? The garbage bag that is covering the window in the living room? The knot weed field and the garbage dump that the previous owner turned it into? And why is everybody asking about the crazy mad professor water softener system in the basement? Oh, we don't need it?

Denial denial...

Who wants another Swedish schnaps? Helan går everyone. And here's more pictures of treeeeees.

No - get your act together homo (wner) this is your responsability now. After making our terrific boiler expert write a letter stating that the furnace is in perfect working condition, the insurance company reinstated our policy. James and Linda: 1 - the Man: 0.

Odd perks of working in the film business. James worked at a meat packing plant on Friday and got a bonus in the shape of two FAT porterhouse steaks. I guess they're fine enough to cook up with salt and pepper but I am working on perfecting my chimichurri and I take every opportunity to make it.

Right in the blender: parsley, garlic cloves, red vinegar, olive oil and a little bit of worcester sauce.

I let the steaks marinade for the day. We tried to find the perfect cook time on the web but ended up winging it and seared them for about 5 mins on each side and then let them rest on the low heat for about 8 mins.

I made potato wedges with fresh thyme and olive oil in the oven and whipped up a quick Bearnaise... from a bag. The day they have fresh tarragon at Stop & Shop is the day I make Bearnaise at home. Not a day later.

We have some premade crab cakes in the freezer and neither one of us is a huge fan of straight up tartar sauce but crave some Cajun wonder sauce. I'm using the sauce in a Bennie situation. English muffins, crab cakes, poached eggs and the sauce! This is he recipe I settled on to start experimenting with (and I finally got to make mayo!):

2/3 cup olive oil
3-4 garlic cloves

Mix in blender.

3 egg yolks
1 table spoon hot mustard or dijon

whisk together

Combine the 2 slowly to make mayo!

In a blender chop up:
1 red pepper
1 onion
2 tablespoons of capers (kapris)
1 jalapeno

Add to the mayo along with 2 table spoons lemon juice, 1/2 tsp of Worcester, horseradish, salt, pepper to taste. We like the heat and we're not chicken about the heat but sometimes (mostly) I don't think the heat adds flavor so I went with one jalapeno and a decent amount of horseradish, and no pepper sauce. I added a little chipotle chili powder but being a culinary segregationist I didn't want to mix my ethnicities and sticking to cajun I would need Gator-Crater-hot-sauce or Bayou Bob's ring-of-fire-topping. Next time...

Here's a little more dining room, since there has been very little progress in the last few weeks. Well, we DID hang 2 (TWO!) light fixtures this weekend... Scott is starting the windows in the next week or so, and that's almost a little too much progress.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


The dining room is green from floor to ceiling. The right color and an amazing paint job by the significant other. He hates it but he's damn good at it. Here are some befores... Stinky floor and pukey yellow.

At he top you can see MORE wall paper, no house has ever had this much wall paper. This little nook is especially charming with its random baskets, teacups and country crap. The only thing missing is a goose in a bonnet.

The living room before... Bad wood paneling, 3 layers of wall paper, cheesy fireplace...

The 3rd layer revealed these houses. I liked them for about 5 minutes and then continued my mission. James saw something in my eyes that weekend that scared him. He thought he was going to find me in the neighbor's house in the middle of the night peeling their wallpaper. It's highly addictive. Oh man sometimes you get those looooong strips off....

This is from the weekend when we tackled the bathroom ceiling. Satisfaction.

Scraper in hand, wall paper lovers - beware

And now:

The couch corner.

Rosemary is working on a couch for us. She has gathered samples and more samples trying to find the PERFECT GREEN. The riddle goes: What's green at night and turns brown in the morning? The answer is every single swatch we've picked out. It looks perfect under the tungstens but in the daylight it turns into some hideous swamp shade that wouldn't even befit a 70's den.
This weekend we got down to these 4. Rosemary put us on the right path thinking of a lighter couch. We were always seeing a dark green monster that just eats you up. Buuuut... thinking further and visualizing the bright white living room and the adjoining dark green dining room... we settled on

this one.

Totally casual and comfortable but in a kind of medium, grown up shade.

Thank you for all your help Rosemary and we can't wait to watch movies with you in our new living room!!!

I don't feel like I feature our lovely temporary bedroom enough. It's such a beautiful room with it's wood beams and bay window. How I've kept my fingers away from peeling the wall paper off is a mystery. I guess there just has to be a safe zone somewhere and this is it for now.

The big question is what will happen to this room when we move upstairs. Den? Office? Screening room? Hat storage? Monkey farm? Something that rhymes with "ursery"?

Scott, our contractor is about to start on our windows and that is a huge deal. We might fall behind on all other progress so this blog may very well turn to movie reviews instead. And pictures of trees...

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Gold afternoon

It was a crappy sunday. Weather wise. Inside it was alright with vanilla ice cream, neighbor Suzanne's wild raspberry/rhubarb preserves and the 2nd season of Mad Men. Walked outside around 6pm to the sound of the bells playing from the church on the corner. And this is what I saw.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Four Day Weekend

Dear followers of Maple Ave Gazette... Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to stop by and read my modest blog. Now hold your horses everyone - here are the latest and greatest updates and reports.

First, fall in Clintondale:

This is the south end of the house with one of the 2 Maples visible.

The back and north gable. And our favorite grandaddy Sugar Maple.

This is mainly for Eva. I hired an architect to draw up a floor plan so you could get the gist of our quirky house.

Just kidding! It's me and a Sharpie 10 minutes ago at Kinkos. Click on it to enlarge it.

So it's nice to meet the locals and get tips about the area and where to buy the best apples and who's got the freshest eggs. Who delivers your fuel and who cleans your septic tank? And then there is the age old question. Who's got the better pizza? Well, let me tell you, we got the inside scoop from our cab driver the other night. He picked us up in a rainy Rosendale after our friends Sam and Angela's pre-wedding BBQ. Minutes into the ride, apropos nothing at all, he offered the following tidbit.
"So I had a slice at Village pizza the other day and I had to spend 15 minutes in the Dunkin Donuts bathroom. So you gotta go with Fat Bob's. That's the place."
Thank you Mr. Cab Driver, for that valuble information.
It became a 4 day weekend for me taking friday off to go to the BBQ and monday was Columbus day. We got good stuff done around the house, but we also took a little drive. We went to Rhinebeck for the annual antiques fair. If any friends of James are reading this, just for the record: it was my idea, James would never be caught dead at an antiques fair... I seriously considered a life size brass monkey head, but decided rent was more important.
After that a stop at the Vanderbilt mansion.
And we are scared about our heating bills...
View over the Hudson river from the Vanderbilt mansion.
We drove through Poughkeepsie on the way home and found thousands of people trekking Walkway Over the Hudson. It's an old railroad bridge that just opened for pedestrian traffic this weekend.
The last stop for me before getting on the bus monday night was the Esposito house, .3 miles from ours, to say hello to the latest editions to their family.
Ethan and Banjo
Things are slowing down a little bit around the house. All those projects we thought we were doing right off the bat (new furnace, electrical upgrade, porch and wood floor in the cottage, starting the master bedroom...) have all been pushed to the spring. The only one left is THE WINDOWS. It's a big one (read expensive....) but it's a good one. 16 (SIXTEEN?!?!?!?!) Marvin aluminum clad double pane argon filled 2 over 2 simulated divided light bla bla bla... Hopefully they will make the DRAFT PALACE a little more air tight.
So LA-LA-LA-LA sign the check, don't think about the amount... LA-LA-LA-LA-LA go back to work, think about the tax credit these windows will provide April 15 LA-LA-LA-LA go on with your day.
These are the beautifully restored 2 over 2 windows at the Gunk House and that is the type of window we are going for in our house.
As if you are the least bit interested in my heating system... If you're not you can skip to the next paragraph, but if you are as fascinated as this suburban-kid-turned-city-gal-come-country-bumpkin, stop and take a look at Dr. Furnace von Frankenstein.
It's scuffed up and in bad shape, But Matt the furnace guy says he'll live another 10 or so years. Cross every finger you got.
Our heating system is set up pretty great, dividing the house into 3 different zones, meaning you don't have to heat the whole thing. As soon as we leave one room that thermostat goes down to 55. Every room has sweet old radiators and the place heats up pretty quickly. So come on up, Elena, we can turn it up to 57 for you.
James has been hard at work in Clintondale, while I've been hard at work in the city. The living room is about to get primed and painted. It's looking better already with just the skim coat.
The future couch corner.
My sister and Gizmo's house seems to have a very similar lay out to ours, especially the dining/living room scenario. Same shape, same picture window and same opening between them. They decided to paint theirs black. Well, we couldn't do exactly the same thing, so ours in greenish-black. So there.
The black dining room of Goatvalley.
The in progress GREENISH black dining room of 19 Maple Ave.
This is all a joke of course and the Goatvalley folks approve, we took them on a Skype tour around the house on saturday and it was like they were right there! Skål, det var trevligt att få en stund tillsammans!
So the top shade is the Polo green in flat finish. The bottom is only primer so far. By next weekend I think it will be covered by a first coat of Polo green in a semi gloss finish. Sexxxy.
These are the sweet chairs we got for the PAAARLOOOR. They preside in the cake shop right now which has become a very comfy temporary living room.
Finally, I made corn bread... Went a little too nutmeggy (muskotnöt) for James but I think it took on a "fally" taste, a little spicy and very hearty. Trying to get into baking cause to quote Elizabeth of the Gunk House, "we owe muffins all over this town."
1 cup flour
1 cup yellow corn meal
1 teaspoon salt
3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 egg
1 cup milk
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup brown sugar
Aaaaand I topped off with 1 teaspoon nutmeg.
Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl and pour into a buttered pan.
Put in the oven at 400 degrees for about 30 mins.